The Evil of Frankenstein (1964) [31 Days of Hammer Horror Review]

With Halloween looming large at the end of the month, and Hammer Horror recently making its return to the world of comics courtesy of the fine folks at Titan Comics, we figured now was the perfect time to take a look some of the fantastic Hammer back catalogue.

So this month, Jules is planning to watch every single Hammer Horror movie and share his thoughts with you fine, horror loving people.

You can check out the rest of our “31 Days of Hammer” by CLICKING HERE.

Released: 1964
Starring: Peter Cushing, Peter Woodthorpe, Sandor Eles
Director: Freddie Francis

There’s few Hammer films that split fans’ attention as much as The Evil Of Frankenstein. It’s understandable though, as it’s a film that isn’t entirely sure what it wants to be.

With a shiny new distribution deal with Universal in the U.S. behind them, the studio were free to skirt as close to their iconic designs and ideas as they wanted, so this time the Monster cuts a familiar shambling figure, all flat head and platform feet. Continuity is completely abandoned too, with everyone from Frankenstein’s origins to his previously established personality being rebooted from scratch.

Despite such radical (and some would say unnecessary) changes, Evil Of Frankenstein works as a film in its own right, as long as you don’t question too hard.

Forced to flee his laboratory base by the authorities, Victor Frankenstein (Cushing) and his assistant Hans (Sandro Eles) head back to Karlstaad, site of the Baron’s ancestral home where he plans to sell the valuables left there when he was originally driven out years before.

They find the mansion looted by villagers, prompting Frankenstein reflect on his persecution by the locals when he first created life. Instead of a mindless killer, this creature (Kiwi Kingston) only killed livestock, but was driven to its apparent death falling down a mountain crevice by the police who then arrested, fined and exiled The Baron for crimes of heresy.

Now returned home, Frankenstein finds the corrupt Burgomeister has “confiscated” his valuables for himself, leading to an altercation that drives him and Hans into the mountains, where they come across a deaf/mute beggar girl living in a cave that contains a familiar, monstrous figure frozen in the glacier…

This is a weird one. On the one hand, the partnership with Universal allowed Hammer to deliver one of their finest laboratory sets, a pulsing, clanking monstrosity that’s very much a tribute to Whale’s original classic. On the other hand, the look of the Monster this time around takes similar inspiration, but is a million miles off Jack Pierce’s masterpiece of design and application, coming over as clumsy and ham-fisted, failing to convince and only remind you of a superior version.

It’s not just the look that’s in thrall to the Universal series either, with plot elements like the Monster frozen in ice, the return to the château and climactic explosion all calling back to earlier instalments of the American series.

Frankenstein himself is a vastly different character too, being pitched much more of a decent man, of driven and full of hubris. He’s certainly not the sociopathic, obsessed villain of the previous two outings, with the closet he gets being his dispassionate and cold attitude to the newborn monster, as he lets him wander around to fall down stairs and burn himself.

Strangely, with The Baron softened up, there’s not even anyone you could call a villain in this piece. It’s certainly not the lumbering innocent
Monster (played without any of the pathos of Christopher Lee by wrestler Kiwi Kingston) or the shady Burgomeister even. The closet is the travelling hypnotist Zoltan (Peter Woodthorpe), but even he is more of a sleazy shyster than an out and out villain.

If this all sounds like Evil Of Frankenstein is a failure, well…it’s not. Not at all.

Taken on its own merits, it’s an effective horror in its own right. Cushing is wonderful as always, putting a different spin on his Baron, one where his resentment and anger is more justified, a result of persecution rather than insane ambition.

Director Freddie Francis delivers an often sumptuous-looking film, rich in colour and design, while making the most of the laboratory set as it rumbles into life.

A fine enough film then, but when it comes down to it, Evil Of Frankenstein is a missed opportunity. Hammer had done great work in the previous two films setting the Baron up as a truly villainous anti-hero of the series, leaving him set up in London with not only a new identity but an entirely new body.

They were doing their own thing with the Frankenstein mythology and it was working brilliantly. To abandon all of that to retread old ground less successfully makes no sense whatsoever.

Rating: 2.5/5.

JULESAV The Writer of this piece was: Jules Boyle
Jules tweets from @Captain_Howdy

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  1. 31 Days of Hammer – Frankenstein Created Woman (1967) – BIG COMIC PAGE

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